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Be Patient, Before You Become A Patient

June 6, 2013 Leave a comment

The other day I read a story about a man who became enraged after having to wait in a doctor’s office for over an hour. He stormed over to the receptionist’s window and screamed at a staff member, then suddenly froze, turned a pale color, and collapsed onto the floor, never to regain consciousness. The autopsy revealed nothing physically wrong with this person. His death was attributed to angry thoughts, which sparked a massive coronary.

Patience is often interpreted as stoical endurance of pain and hardship, but it goes well beyond that definition. It is more about embracing the situation exactly the way it is in that moment, and responding in a resourceful or transcendent state of mind. Patience has a deeper aspect of intelligence and wisdom. This is not to be confused with the example of a braying mule overloaded with saddlebags, trudging along a bumpy path until it drops dead. That type of patience is without clarity. Forbearing difficult circumstances can be about struggling to get through something, but developing true patience is a discipline that allows us to be in a flexible flow as situations unfold.

A sense of humor can be a powerful ally to overcome impatience, helping us (and others) re-frame perspective and transcend the difficulties of the moment. A customer service rep I know handled an irate client’s complaint over the phone by saying, “I can certainly appreciate why the situation would anger you. We’ve been in business here for over 60 years; perhaps, we’ve become a bit senile.” The client laughed heartily and the rep was able to resolve the grievance immediately.

If patience was a commodity, it seems to be in shorter supply these days. As a result, we pay a higher price for it in terms of our collective well-being and societal civility (road rage, domestic violence, et al). Next time that impetuous flash of impatience rears its head, take a deep breath, perceive the moment from a broader context, and ask yourself if there is another way of looking at it. Or, put yourself in the shoes of your favorite comedian—how would he/she respond in that situation?

Memorial Day

May 23, 2013 Leave a comment

Did you know that this holiday was originally called Decoration Day? It was born as a commemoration to the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century, the occasion was extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service, and renamed Memorial Day. As a result of the Civil War, a new theme of death, sacrifice and rebirth entered the national consciousness, imprinting a quasi-spiritual component to a secular event. Memorial Day gave ritual expression to these themes, integrating the American community with a sense of nationalism.

Beyond remembrance of those who made “the ultimate sacrifice,” is it not time that we seriously question the impulse to go to war, whether it is between nations, between people, or within ourselves? The human race has made great strides in terms of technological advancements, particularly in our lifetime. Yet the daily news is still fraught with violent conflict, from international to individual to suicidal.

Conflict is a fact of life, but how we manage it provides a benchmark as to whether we are evolving or essentially bestial in our mentality. It would be amazing on this holiday to celebrate the mastery of conflict, while we remember and honor those who suffered the consequences of conflict.

Plymouth Rocks

November 21, 2012 Leave a comment

In 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, toting 102 passengers—an assortment of religious renegades seeking a new land where they could freely practice their faith plus other adventurous, liberty-loving folks lured by the promise of land ownership and prosperity in the New World. They initially dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod; one month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, landed at Plymouth Rock to begin the work of establishing a village.

The first winter was brutal, with only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew living to witness their first New England spring. In March, the remaining settlers relocated ashore from the ship, where they received a surprise visit from an Abenaki tribal member who greeted them in English. Several days later, he returned with another Native American, Squanto, who taught the Pilgrims, hampered by malnutrition and disease, how to grow corn, extract sap from maple trees, snare fish, and detect both edible and medicinal plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years and tragically remains one of the rare examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans.

In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest was deemed successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as the first “Thanksgiving”—although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time—the festival lasted for three days. A holiday that now tends to stress immediate family bonds, its original spirit is a tribute to the family of humankind, and the values of liberty, mutual respect, and working together for the common good.

Gross National Happiness

October 4, 2012 Leave a comment

“Mr. Potts, in the midst of poverty, ever laughing. It seems then, that happiness in this life rather depends on internals than externals…” – Ben Franklin

The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan coined the phrase “Gross National Happiness” as a way to define quality of life within a more holistic paradigm. Like most moral ideals, it is easier to state than to define. Nevertheless, it serves as a unifying vision for Bhutan’s planning process to balance material and spiritual development of its people, unlike Gross National Product, which only offers a materialistic construct of economic growth.

Gross National Happiness, or GNH, was created by King Jigme Singye Wangchuck in 1972, indicating his commitment to building an economy that would serve Bhutan’s unique culture, based on Buddhist spiritual values. The four pillars of GNH are the promotion of sustainable development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of the natural environment, and establishment of good governance. More specifically, concerns have been identified as psychological well-being, health, education, good living standards, community vitality and ecological diversity.

“It is not antithetical to economic growth, but growth should reflect what people want,” states Karma Tshiteem, the head of Bhutan’s planning commission. “Environment, culture and tradition are the aspects that are important to Buddhist people.” Tshiteem lives in Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital nestled in the hills, which is devoid of high-rise buildings, traffic jams and smog.

Officials said they have already conducted a survey of around 1,000 people and drawn up a list of parameters for being happy — similar to the development index tracked by the United Nations. The main purpose of the index is to evaluate whether the plans, policies and programs of the government conform to the GNH concept. The pilot survey revealed that 68 percent of Bhutanese could be classified as being happy, though Tshiteem notes that “Bhutan is not utopia. We are also tempted by materialism.”

The challenge will be shielding Bhutan from what is perceived as the more negative aspects of growth being faced by Goliath neighbors India and China — social upheaval, delinquency, air and water pollution, rampant materialism and the steady erosion of age-old traditions.

Perhaps we in the U.S. need to undertake a similar values assessment. While the news media is trumpeting with regularity the gloomy economic news, there is an opportunity for deeper reflection for what is ultimately important. Happiness is a choice, not dependent upon external factors, but a desire as natural as breathing.

Gross National Happiness

October 4, 2012 Leave a comment

“Mr. Parsons, even in prosperity, always fretting. Mr. Potts, in the midst of poverty, ever laughing. It seems then, that happiness in this life rather depends on internals than externals…” – Ben Franklin

The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan coined the phrase “Gross National Happiness” as a way to define quality of life within a more holistic paradigm. Like most moral ideals, it is easier to state than to define. Nevertheless, it serves as a unifying vision for Bhutan’s planning process to balance material and spiritual development of its people, unlike Gross National Product, which only offers a materialistic construct of economic growth.

Gross National Happiness, or GNH, was created by King Jigme Singye Wangchuck in 1972, indicating his commitment to building an economy that would serve Bhutan’s unique culture, based on Buddhist spiritual values. The four pillars of GNH are the promotion of sustainable development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of the natural environment, and establishment of good governance. More specifically, concerns have been identified as psychological well-being, health, education, good living standards, community vitality and ecological diversity.

“It is not antithetical to economic growth, but growth should reflect what people want,” states Karma Tshiteem, the head of Bhutan’s planning commission. “Environment, culture and tradition are the aspects that are important to Buddhist people.” Tshiteem lives in Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital nestled in the hills, which is devoid of high-rise buildings, traffic jams and smog.

Officials said they have already conducted a survey of around 1,000 people and drawn up a list of parameters for being happy — similar to the development index tracked by the United Nations. The main purpose of the index is to evaluate whether the plans, policies and programs of the government conform to the GNH concept. The pilot survey revealed that 68 percent of Bhutanese could be classified as being happy, though Tshiteem notes that “Bhutan is not utopia. We are also tempted by materialism.”

The challenge will be shielding Bhutan from what is perceived as the more negative aspects of growth being faced by Goliath neighbors India and China — social upheaval, delinquency, rampant materialism and the steady erosion of age-old traditions.

Perhaps we in this country need to undertake a similar values assessment. While the news media is trumpeting with regularity the gloomy economic news, there is an opportunity for deeper reflection and what really makes life worth living. Happiness is a moment to moment choice, not dependent upon external factors, but a desire as natural as breathing.

Revelation in the Rush Hour

August 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Several years ago a friend of mine took me to see a meditation guru from India speak at a local auditorium. At the close of the event, the master was taking questions from the audience. One person asked, “What is the best form of meditation when you’re feeling upset?” The guru sat and ruminated for about a minute with a smile spreading across his face, then said, “There is no best way to meditate. If one is stuck in rush hour traffic on the Hollywood Freeway and fully embraces the experience in a pure state of awareness and acceptance, that is meditation.”

And so it is with humor. We need not change, alter or avoid an experience to find the humor in it. Instead of resisting it, humor can embrace the experience as it is, the way it is, from another perspective and allows us to move through it more fluidly.

Think of people you know who have a strong sense of self-esteem. Do they also have a well-developed sense of humor? I would bet the house that they do. They may not dye their hair a primary color and cart-wheel down an aisle in a public library wearing a clown suit, but they have a certain perspective that keeps them loose and limber.

People suffering from chronic seriousness can become brittle when faced with obstacles, which undermines their self-esteem. With a strong humorous perspective were not as fazed by such obstacles. We can tackle our challenges diligently and lucidly, yet take ourselves lightly.

For stronger dosage of humor, go here

Connecting to Purpose

June 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Last week I wrote about sustaining energy and the forgotten factor (deep breathing), addressing the energy shortage in people on a physiological level. Today I want to contribute an emotional/spiritual component to the issue.

For many, it may be re-connecting to purpose; for some, creating a new purpose, but seriously ask yourself: “What do I live for?” The answer should candidly distill down to a passionate feeling or quality of living, e.g. “I live for joy,” “I live to nurture my family,” “I live for peace of mind.” Mine is, “I live for adventure.” It doesn’t mean that I run with the bulls or wrestle alligators. I live for adventure, not insanity! It means that I try to find the adventure in most everything that I do. For something as mundane as going to the market, I’m not going just to shop. I preset an intention to talk with or meet somebody on the line at the checkout stand, or elicit a new way to prepare fish from the person behind the fish counter, or learn about a new product. Building my life around that sense of adventure really simplifies things in terms of creating goals and objectives, like feeding off an oxygen tank.

If life feels like a hamster wheel of waking up, going to work, paying bills, household chores, and family obligations, without the central soul connection to purpose, it becomes vapid. Purpose is the furnace that your core energy radiates from, while the deep breathing fans the flames. Next week: the third component of sustaining energy.

Use these strategies on “How to Become Energy Efficient” here